The Search for Spiritual Security:
The One, the Whole, and Wholeness - 4
This book, Rhythm of Wholeness
, is founded upon the realization that Wholeness is the ultimate idea we can have of the meaning of being. To be is to be a whole
unfolding its inherent potentialities through cycles of changes (time) and in a state of unceasing relatedness to other wholes (space). Wholeness
is the being-ness of all wholes. Nothing more can be said of it, except that it is
and that it is all-inclusive.
A great yogi or mystic in meditation or devotional ecstasy may totally dismiss anything objective from his or her-mind and sever subjective consciousness from everything having an objective character. Such a person may reach a state of extreme subjectivity in which mental processes lose all objective character and all that remains is the realization of "Self" — that is, of "being I" in an unconditioned sense, free from all that is involved in personhood. Nevertheless, reaching such a state does not destroy the world of objective existence to which the yogi or mystic, sooner or later (and in most cases very soon), has to return. He or she may call the experience timeless, but the earth keeps rotating on its axis and revolving around the sun. Motion has not ceased. Even if the yogi's heart stops beating, the atoms of his body still whirl at fantastic speed. A human center of consciousness may reach an utterly disobjectivized experience of Oneness, but while this experience may introduce a new and transformative element or quality into the whole being of the experiencer, the fact
remains that he or she is a whole on a planet that is a still more inclusive whole. The wholeness of the more inclusive whole encompasses this experience of extreme subjectivity as well as the more "natural" objective experiences referred to a physical body, its sensations, organic feelings, and the fulfillment of its biological, psychic, and sociocultural needs.
the subjective and the objective, the "I" and the "Other" — all others, the entire universe. Wholeness encompasses all forms of objective existence revealed by our senses, measured by our sense organs, and interpreted by our minds; and it also contains the consciousness which is experiencing itself as subjective being.
On the one hand, the human organism registers a multiplicity of impacts, sensations, and feelings produced by and producing ever altering situations; on the other, a human being is conscious of himself as a single, unchanging subject experiencing all these changes. Situations and experiences change, but that which experiences — the subject, "I" — apparently retains a persistent character that is not essentially altered or erased by impacts and experiences. A clear contrast between the one
permanent experiencer and the many
entities it experiences would have to be made, were it not that at least some of these many entities also act as and claim to be experiencers in the same way as "I." Thus there are many experiencing subjects as well as many objects being experienced; every subject is also an object to another subject, and every "one" is part of the category of "many" for other "ones."
In Wholeness, the one and the many are unceasingly, eternally interrelated
, and they are interrelated in wholes. The wholeness of a human whole includes both the state of "subjecthood" and that of "objecthood." A whole is neither "one" nor "many," it is both; each whole is more or less "one," more or less "many." But various types of wholes differ from one another according to the proportion of "oneness" and "manyness" within their constitutions.
We come therefore to the realization that Wholeness includes the One and the Many, indeed that it is
their dynamic interrelationship. Philosophically speaking, Wholeness includes and integrates two fundamental principles, the principle of Unity and the principle of Multiplicity. And as change is the primary and most essential fact of human experience, the interrelationship of Unity and Multiplicity is a dynamic relationship that ceaselessly changes. In terms of consciousness, it is the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity. In terms of universal motion and change, the relationship between Unity and Multiplicity is structured and essentially cyclic. The dynamic interrelationship between them is contained within fields of activity, wholes — wholes of time (cycles) and wholes of space (units or cosmoi). The principle of Unity gives to motion a rhythmic or cyclic character. It also provides defining boundaries for the fields of activity, large or small, microcosms or macrocosms, in which the principle of Multiplicity produces ever more differentiation and expansion.
Because of the principle of Multiplicity, the world of existence is experienced in terms of a multitude of entities; because of the principle of Unity, these entities are wholes, integrating parts (or rather subwholes) differentiated by the principle of Multiplicity. At the human level of being, the principle of Unity operates in the organized whole, the person, as a subjective sense of identity, of being "I." But because the principle of Multiplicity can never be totally inoperative — dominant and for an instant all-powerful as the realization of unity may be — there ultimately can be no one-and-only absolute subject, "the One." Similarly, because the principle of Unity can never be totally inoperative, neither can there be absolute multiplicity. If no principle of Unity were in operation, there could be no unity of being, only an undifferentiated, infinite extension of nameless substance. No experiencing subjects would exist, because without defining boundaries there could be no even minimally integrated wholes, no entities, no experiences because no experiencers.
All wholes are and must be finite. The very fact that an entity is a whole
implies that it has limiting factors or boundaries, as abstract or supersensible as these may be. But Wholeness
is not finite, because it applies to all wholes and is not limited to any particular
whole or condition of being. Yet neither is Wholeness infinite, because the concept of infinity (to which human beings usually attach a powerful emotional charge) is only one pole of an intellectual dualism whose other pole is finitude. For a human mind moved by the uncertainties of existence, it is much easier to postulate infinity — thus to negate finitude — than to understand what is implied in existence as a finite whole and in Wholeness as the undefinable beingness
of all wholes. For Wholeness is no-thing, and no-one, because it encompasses all things and all ones, be they predominantly objective or predominantly subjective. Yet without Wholeness, nothing or no one could exist.
In this sense, the idea of Wholeness is not essentially different from the true Hindu concept of Brahman. However, a basic difference does arise when the Indian philosopher speaks on the one hand of the manifestation of Brahman as Ishvara, the Lord, He, or Ish
, and on the other of the non-manifestation of Brahman. In the philosophy of Wholeness I am presenting. Wholeness can never "nonmanifest" — Wholeness can never "not be." There is only being, but being oscillates, as it were, between two poles. Unity and Multiplicity, subjectivity and objectivity. This oscillation is cyclic, and at no time is non-being possible. There are only phases and conditions in which being is predominantly subjective, and others in which it is predominantly objective. The latter constitute what we, who are operating in them, call existence or the world.
When the strictly monistic philosopher or the monotheistic theologian tries to persuade us that the part of our total nature which is under the sway of the principle of Multiplicity is an illusion of no real validity, he actually contributes to a tragically dualistic situation. For all that in human nature is subject to the still powerful trend toward self-multiplication, analysis, reductionism, and materialism inevitably fights back. Unqualified monism thus leads to a state of psychological conflict; it defeats the purpose of integration and forces the One more apart than ever from the Many.
At the present stage of the evolution of human consciousness, we must accept the fact that the principle of Multiplicity is still a dominant factor in human nature. However unified our sense of being — our awareness of being "I" — may be, it still has to deal with and emerge from a multiplicity of organic and cellular voices, each seeking its own satisfaction. The unity of human consciousness is precious; to make it tyrannical is to call for "revolution" — neurosis or even total breakdown. We should try to imagine
unity's dominance without forcing the issue unnecessarily. In so doing we are wise if we do not claim to understand fully a condition of being in which. Unity is lord and master, for such a condition transcends the "human condition" as it actually is today. Nevertheless, a sufficiently developed abstract mind can interpret
such a condition in terms of a change in the balance of power between the principle of Unity and the principle of Multiplicity, even though the mind would not be able to experience the "feel" of being in these states.
Unfortunately, these states usually are spoken of in negative terms — nonbeing, nonmanifestation, nonactivity, timeless, unconditioned. Such negations, together with the concept of nothingness, merely reflect the bondage of past and present human consciousness to the state of objective existence and reveal its incapacity of conceiving positively of predominantly subjective being in the same way it considers positive the various aspects of predominantly objective existence.(6
) It indicates only the limit beyond which the human mind encounters its incapacity to imagine alternatives to its inevitably limited experience of reality. This incapacity should be understood rather than glorified under the convenient mask of negative statements.
Thus in contrast to the state of existence, I shall call the state of predominantly subjective being inistence
. But inistence is not a negation of being. In Wholeness there can be no essential or absolute negation, for in Wholeness all possible states of being — that is, of activity and consciousness — are implied. The philosophy of Wholeness presented in this book is a total affirmation of being: Wholeness always
Wholeness is in every whole, but it also is in what are inadequately called the "parts" of a whole. The term part
is confusing because parts are also wholes. The concept of part actually refers only to the character of the relationship
between a narrower field of Wholeness (a less inclusive or "lesser" whole) and a wider field (a more inclusive or "greater" whole) within which it is contained and functionally operating. Accurately speaking, there are no parts, only wholes — a hierarchy of wholes — that is, of organized fields of activity and consciousness having a limited span of existence. (This span might refer to trillions of years or fractions of a second or to fields encompassing spaces measurable by millions of light years.) A smaller whole is always encompassed by a larger, which contains other lesser wholes, and the lesser whole also encompasses still smaller ones. The hierarchy is one of containment
, not (as in the military or government) one of rank or command
Henri Bergson pointed out long ago that the concept of nothingness (le Neant
in French) is a pseudo-idea, a mere word. See his Creative Evolution
(Henry Holt & Co., New York, 1911), Chapter 4, "The Idea of 'Nothing'." Return